G Herbo – Welcome to Fazoland (Throwback Review)

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While G Herbo is a massive name in popular hiphop today, he began as one of the most unique, influential, and simply quality drill rappers out of Chicago. While Chicago drill in the early 2010’s often leaned either melodic and accessible (such as Finally Rich or Signed to the Streets) or exceedingly dark (Back From the Dead), Lil Herb brought something truly mature and balanced to the table. 2014’s Welcome to Fazoland was an instant classic and would launch a fruitful, consistent career for G Herbo. While his music nowadays is less overtly drill and the projects can be a bit derivative compared to Fazoland, he is an essential name in hiphop and continues to put out great stuff.

In a treacherous war,

People dying, nobody crying

All the shit that I saw and you expect me to stay up on the porch?

The first thing that stands out about Welcome to Fazoland is the production. Drill music is always known for its epic soundscape, backed by prolonged, sliding 808’s, and a distinct drum pattern. In Chicago, it would often be truly dark street shit or try to appeal to the mainstream. G Herbo’s production team (of many fresh names) brought something new to the forefront though: Soul samples.

In the vein of Chicago’s rich musical history, influenced by legends such as Kanye West and Common, Welcome to Fazoland overlays lush vocal samples and jazz sounds to typical drill bangers which creates a really interesting dichotomy. “Write Your Name” is the greatest example of this with a heavily chopped chipmunk sample. This is a motif across the album, but that’s not to say there isn’t aggression. There are plenty of pure, mean drill cuts to balance more minimal and soft songs like “Fight or Flight”. These production choices are highly intentional and mesh perfectly with Herb’s unique lyrical themes.

Used to post up with that tool

I got tired of going to school

‘Cause that algebra and calculus couldn’t buy my clothes and shoes

G Herbo proves himself to be among the most capable, contemplative lyricists in drill on Fazoland. A cornerstone of drill music is rapping directly about violence and gang life, but many artists fail to do much more. Herb brings plenty of badass, threatening bars directed at the opps, but he also dives deep into how it affects himself and the community. There is so much maturity on display here as he nearly shouts his lines. It’s almost like he’s just pouring out his thoughts and and frustrations to us rather than rapping.

On “Momma I’m Sorry”, he directly addresses mothers in the hood and explains the process and regret of making them worry by going out on the streets. He also addresses feelings of guilt and trauma, even years before the hit “PTSD” with Juice WRLD and Chance the Rapper. “Write Your Name” is a heartfelt tribute to all his fallen brothers, proving they will live on through memory and music. Other big Chicago names like Lil Bibby, King Louie, Reese, and Lil Durk bring standout features which are well placed and contrast perfectly with Herb’s abrasive delivery. Meanwhile, “4 Minutes of Hell” is a pure display of MC’ing, and there is no shortage of typical drill stunting on other tracks.

Overall, Welcome to Fazoland was a watershed moment in Chicago drill and hiphop in general. Right up there with classics such as Finally Rich, G Herbo brought sharp, contemplative lyrics and unique production. Herb is rightfully a legend to the scene and remains one of the best rappers in the mainstream today, but it all started on the corner.

Listen to Welcome to Fazoland on Spotify

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